Bringing baby home from the hospital was the craziest shock my husband and I have EVER been through. We thought we had the whole “preparing for baby” thing DOWN, especially the first week. Newborn life couldn’t be that bad, could it?
Oh man…I’ve never been so wrong and I blame one person:
An ex-coworker of mine, who had her baby five weeks prior, said to me before I was due, “I was prepared for that first week to be hell on earth.” She rolled her eyes and let out a little “tisk” sound, “It was totally easy. I don’t see what all the fuss is about. It’s not hard at all.”
I wish I could go back and punch her in the face.
Alright, so it’s not realistic to place all the blame on her.
But WAY too late, I found out this is *seriously* abnormal. Girlfriend, let me be the first to say (if you don’t know already), that you probably wont be skipping with joy catching rainbows and butterflies while singing The Sound Of Music after you bring your baby home from the hospital.
BUT on the hand, those newborn moments are seriously precious. You’ll never get to learn breastfeeding with your firstborn again or give a first bath or sing her to sleep for the first time. Those moments are beautiful and fleeting.
This means, even though bringing your baby home may be the craziest whirlwind of a ride you’ve ever been on, it’s crucial for you to slow down, care for yourself, not sweat the small stuff, heal and capture those once in a lifetime precious moments.
If ONLY I could go back to my pre-baby self and give this advice! Here are ten things I would say to myself and any other mommy who is preparing for their baby:
What I WISH I Had Known Before Bringing Baby Home
1. Bringing baby home would be a complete shock
I didn’t think it would be so bad. The last trimester of pregnancy was pretty sleepless already but dang…nothing could compare to those first few days with our fresh little human. I wish I had been much more prepared for the combination of things I would have to deal with. Each one of these things would be somewhat manageable on their own but all at once?!
This led to a couple MAJOR breakdowns.
I wish I had understood that these would be just some of things that I would have to deal with all at the same time: major healing, pain, exhaustion, stress from dealing with people (introvert over here), anxiety due to the fact that I was the #1 provider of a helpless little LIFE and all the fear/stress that comes with learning a TON of new things ALL AT ONCE.
Major take-home point:
Understand that you may have to deal with A LOT all at once and it could push the boundaries of your capacity. If you take away anything, hear this: ask for help and don’t be afraid to! Just do it. Don’t people please. Put your foot down (in a non-scary ‘I-just-had-a-baby!!!’ voice if possible) when you have a gut feeling about things. Breath and take things little at a time if you can. Don’t worry about the dishes, laundry, cleaning etc. Ask someone else to do it.
RELATED: 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Having A Baby (If you’d like advice on how contractions should feel, what I wish I knew going to the hospital and more.)
2. To pay attention in prenatal class regarding tips on caring for a newborn!
Our first prenatal class was at the hospital where I was delivering. It filled up fast, we had to take work off, it was eight hours, the nurse seemed like she didn’t want to be there and skimmed over things I really wanted to know! Giving your newborn their first bath for instance…
“Oh the video doesn’t seem to be working…let’s just skip that…” She seemed to say this way too often!
I tried paying attention to what was said but I was much more concerned about the whole labor and delivery part. Once that was over, I though the rest would be a breeze. I should have paid attention to postpartum and newborn care the MOST!
Now with baby #2, I wanted a refresher and found this AH-mazing class run by RN Hilary Erickson (There’s also a FREE version here). She’s been a labor and delivery nurse for over 16 years and has taught prenatal classes regularly (without skipping all the videos…). If only I had known to take her class for baby #1! I’d have been much more prepared. You can take the class at your own pace, and you’ll receive a fantastic prenatal education from a passionate, experienced and wonderful mommy and nurse. I also guarantee you’ll LOVE her emails!
3. To PREPARE a postpartum survival kit!!!
Oh gosh, just thinking of this brings bad memories – this was a nightmare!
I ran out of everything fast (what the hospital provided at least) and had to try telling my husband (while he was going to every store in the area) what Tucks Medicated Healing Pads were and Dermoplast (because these were MUST HAVES). All that frustration while in pain and exhausted to my soul!
This time, there is NO WAY I’m skipping out on a Postpartum Care Kit. It’s not that hard to put together either. For future reference, I even put together an Amazon List (shown below) with items recommended by the hospital.
Prepare your kit at least in your third trimester. Here are 9 absolutely necessary items:
- Very quickly, you will run out of those giant pads from the hospital. You also (like me) may not have been madly in love with them. Stock up on Always Maxi (overnight extra heavy flow with wings). They are not as bulky and the wings provide extra space for any leakage.
- You will also run out of those guazy, ugly as heck but amazing disposable underwear the hospital gives you. Or they may give you none. Save yourself the trouble and buy your own postpartum maternity (post-surgical) disposable underwear just like the hospital has.
- The hospital also gives you this cheapo little bottle to squirt warm water down there every single time you go to the bathroom called a peri bottle. It sucks and it’s not an option. However, there is a MUCH better alternative. Fridababy makes a peri-bottle called the Fridet with a nozzle specifically designed to be held upside down, giving you much more control with each use.
- Also, the hospital provided Tucks Medicated Healing Pads to place directly on the maxi pad for relief. They are little round (3″) pads with witch hazel and I cannot tell you how much they relieved the burning and itching. Ah-mazing.
- When you want to graduate into actual underwear (and ditch the diaper feel) I would advise having a pack of ridiculously comfortable underwear on hand like these boy short boxer brief panties. Postpartum, I was thanking God that I had those boy short underwear. I liked how they didn’t ride up and they were super comfortable.
- Make sure to add a good panty liner like Always thin dailies as you transition to normalcy. I personally, liked Always liners the best because they were comfortable and effective.
- First off, I know those DIY “padsickles” are like all the rage but I’ve been there, done that and they were TERRIBLE (in my personal experience). If I wanted to freezer burn my painfully injured vagina then padsicles would definitely be the way to go. On the other hand, when I wanted actual pain relief and comfort, these medicated cooling pads (like they have at the hospital) were MUCH better!
- When you leave the hospital, chances are you will receive Dermoplast Pain Relieving Spray and you will be thankful as heck. The nurse told me, “Never forget to use this each and every time you go to the bathroom.” The problem is, that’s a lot of spraying so we had to go out and find two additional cans. Save yourself the hassle and have it ready beforehand! I can’t stress this enough. Another similar spray gaining momentum is Earth Mama Herbal Perineal Spray. It’s a more natural product and I’ve heard raving reviews.
- Prepare to have sitz baths. They are SUPER healing and fantastic for postpartum recovery. Buy a simple plastic cover that sits neatly over your toilet like this top Amazon sitz bath by Yunga Tart and use a high-quality Epsom salt made specifically for these types of baths like Epsoak Epsom Salt (which is Amazon’s #1 choice). I linked the large bag because sitz baths are usually recommended 2-3 times a day! That’s a lot of Epsom salt.
RELATED (top postpartum posts to seriously help you prepared for postpartum recovery):
10 Unbelievable Postpartum Recovery Tips For Healing After A Vaginal Birth
5 Shocking Truths: What Postpartum Recovery Is Really Like
4. Not to invite just anyone over
Okay, so some new moms are extroverts and just love everybody and their dog stopping by, asking the same questions and feigning concern while they ask you for a glass of water and some for Fido too. “While you’re there, do you have anything to eat? My, my you can tell you haven’t been home, huh?”
I politely excused myself and went to go scream in a pillow. It works.
Some people are takers and some are givers. Some are givers that get so stressed out, they end up being takers because they need so much comforting. Don’t invite the takers. How do you know the difference? Bring to mind a person in your life. After you’ve spent some time with this person, when leaving do you feel uplifted and happy OR drained, frustrated and aggravated? There is your key.
This time, I think we’ll have zero visitors for at least one week. It’s hard to please everyone and try to figure out life with a newborn. Plus, your husband may only have a week of paternity leave. I would rather spend that time privately bonding and figuring out this major life change, rather than crying in my pillow because I want to murder the people who keep coming over.
5. Stockpiling general household necessities and freezer meals would be the most AWESOME life saver ever…
When you’re recovering, not sleeping and figuring out how to exist that first week or so, likely even the thought of going out in public will send you back under the covers in sweatpants. The idea of taking a trip to get weekly groceries wouldn’t have even been funny (in my opinion)…
Here’s another live and learn circumstance I WISH I would have done and will not mess up this second time around. Do your future self a giant favor and grab these household necessities a few weeks, at least, before your due date.
6. Breastfeeding would be difficult but that’s normal (don’t give up)
I had taken a breastfeeding class at our hospital, read all the things, bought all the things and I was ready. Close friends and relatives had asked me, “Are you choosing to breastfeed?” This question baffled me. I was incredibly naive!
My response was always a confused but positive, “Yes, of course.”
Cue day 1, hours after our new precious little one was born. I had no idea that you had to teach a newborn to breastfeed. I mean, I knew there was some training involved but animals all do it themselves. Why was it SO difficult for a human baby? Who knows….but it is.
It was painful too. The baby even has to be taught how to breastfeed, where on the breast and how their mouth needs to be…everything. If you do it wrong and don’t correct them, hello blisters, bleeding, and PAIN. But in the beginning, this is bound to happen while you are learning. (Make SURE you have Lansinoh or something similar to ease the pain + Soothies Gel Pads. Those are simply are AMAZING and make it so much more bearable.)
In the end, I do wish I had known how hard it would be but most importantly, I wish I had known that it would all turn out to be just fine. We would push through, learn to breastfeed in public with the best nursing cover ever (even though I was SO anxious about that at first!) and we would go on to breastfeed until she was a year old.
Perseverance, patience, and practice made it all worth it.
7. There’s a whole new dimension of sleep deprivation never experienced before
People say things like I “slept like a baby.” This can instill a VERY MAJOR misconception that babies sleep consecutively. Major wake up call (pun super intended): your brand new baby will likely sleep twenty hours a day like any other average newborn but it will be in VERY SHORT spurts. Usually, this is around 30 minutes to two hours.
Make sure to check out: The Ultimate Newborn Sleep Schedule, Must-Know Week By Week Tips
In addition, I found that typically our newborn woke up crying and wanting something right that instant! At first, this was a stressful, panicky scramble to understand what all that overwhelming screech was for. But don’t worry, mommy, you will just know after a couple days. Your super mommy-sense will kick in (I promise) and others may not understand but you will.
I also WISH someone had given me a couple life-saving sleep tips:
- The Graco Glider/Swing (Elite/Pierce) was my absolute saving grace. Seriously, this thing allowed me to pass out while our little one was rocked. I praised all that was good in this world the very day we put this together. I had heard rockers, swings, etc. helped comfort babies but I wasn’t sure what to get. WAY TOO much time on Google and asking every new mommy I knew led me to the Graco Swing. Popular brands like the 4Moms MamaRoo seemed to have reviews like: my baby outgrew this ASAP and the motion was way too minimal to help out with anything. Every other rocker and swing had similar reviews.The Graco Swing had various speeds, looked nice in the living room, wasn’t too big AND could be converted to a small portable bouncer which was AH-mazing. I could seamlessly unclick the bouncer from the swing while she was sleeping and place it in the bathroom so I could actually shower while keeping an eye on her every second.
- I wish I knew the 3-pack of Aden + Anais swaddle blankets are ALL a mommy needs for swaddling. That’s it. We would never have used these swaddle blankets if my wonderful aunt had not purchased them for our baby shower with a note saying, “These are AMAZING. I swear by these.” Now, I do too. Before our baby, I Googled: “how many swaddle blankets do I need?!” and bought a few other brands that collected dust. Here’s your answer: Buy ONE pack of 3 Aden + Anais swaddle blankets. They are stretchy, super high-quality and ridiculously better than other brands. I’ve heard moms use swaddle blankets for spit rags. I wouldn’t advise that. Make it cheaper and way more convenient: get 2-3 packs of Gerber “cloth diapers”. Do not use those for cloth diapers, just spit rags.
- Seriously, buy a Baby Shusher Sleep Miracle Soother. Our newborn photographer makes her living shushing babies to sleep. I was seriously shocked at how well this thing worked at her photo session. She swore by it, told me to buy one asap and I added it to my Amazon cart before we left her studio. It makes a “Shhhh” noise that’s super soothing and our baby zonked out with this thing.
I thought, ‘Something to make my baby sleep?! Shut up and take my money!’ Haha
Lastly, regarding sleep, make sure to plan ahead with your significant other or family member regarding night shifts and/or day shifts. This way, you have help and don’t wake up at 4 am EXHAUSTED wishing your husband would be the one to get up this time. Talk it out and have a game plan.
8. To take care of myself so I could take care of baby too
My mom had told me, “Take care of yourself first and this will allow you to better care for your baby.” She was an RN for over twenty years and this was sound advice. I wish I would have paid MORE attention to what this meant!
There were many, many times where I suddenly felt faint or sick and realized I had been so concerned with our newborn baby’s needs that I hadn’t eaten or drank anything most of the day. More times than I can count, I realized while breastfeeding that I was dizzy.
Slow down, drink water, eat something – even if it’s just meal bars. Ask for help, take naps, change clothes and shower. Try to make your own care a priority too so that you can better care for your baby.
9. Everything would be okay
Emotions may run higher than any pregnancy hormones combined. Like me, you may find yourself in tears, overwhelmed with so much after the arrival of your newborn. Try to take things slow, understand that your reaction is totally normal (you are not alone!) and things will be okay.
Your baby will be okay too even though it may be super scary not to have nurses there. To help with this: have a pediatrician picked out and a hotline or way to message your doctor or their nurses. This was a HUGE comfort for us. We had a number to call if we ever had questions AND a log-in for our pediatrician where we could submit messages and pictures if we had any concerns. You still have a nurse and doctor care at your fingertips.
I wish I had understood how helpful prioritizing would be. Even a warrior woman like you can only do so much. We may feel like superwoman but even she had help. Choose a few things you want to focus on like being healthy yourself, breastfeeding and making your baby feel loved with snuggling and kisses.
RELATED: However, if you find yourself overwhelmed with anxiety, seriously seeing grey or with a major case of the “baby blues” make sure to give this a read – Postpartum Depression: 10 Questions Moms Must Ask
10. Take it easy, breath, focus on our precious newborn, heal and be grateful for these once-in-a-lifetime moments.
You, your significant other and your baby will all need the same exact things this first week at home: lots of rest, food, bonding and time to learn your new life. Try to take in the moments with those brand new tiny hands, little noises and snuggles. In the blink of an eye, you will no longer have a newborn. Even though this time can be crazy, try to focus on the positive and soak in (as much as possible), the love, smiles and everything beautiful about this amazing new life.
Surviving your first newborn week (…or those first three months) may not be rainbow skittles and toy story clouds but when you educate yourself on newborn care, take care of your postpartum self, prioritize, set boundaries, try to have patience with breastfeeding and pretty much everything else, you will set a great foundation for experiencing healing and joy that first week. Most importantly, you will be able to truly take in those once-in-a-lifetime moments that are so incredibly precious.
In the end, remember to breath, ask for help, don’t sweat the small stuff and try to rest. Let yourself wear sweatpants or PJs for a couple weeks (or months), take stress-free walks outside, watch some good movies and try to enjoy every minute of that little one!